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Yoga vs Pilates

  • 5 min read

After a busy day at work, some people thrive on doing something really energetic, while others prefer something restful. What better than low impact exercise that is good for both body and mind? Even with a hectic lifestyle, it is important to spend time exercising each week to keep your body in good shape and to lay firm foundations for the years ahead.

Yoga and Pilates can be both enjoyed at classes run by experienced instructors- with the bonus that they can be practised at home. What better way to quickly relax after a tense meeting on Zoom when working from home? Yoga and Pilates are both very popular, but in the discussions yoga Vs Pilates is there a winner?

The great news about yoga and Pilates is that both are perfect for all levels of fitness and there are suitable classes for all. Both require little equipment - other than a mat and both develop the technique of diaphragmatic breathing. Yoga and Pilates both build and tone muscles and increase body flexibility, as well as improving core stability and balance. When you practise yoga and Pilates you need to focus your mind and this is ideal for reducing levels of stress.

The history of yoga

Yoga has been practised for more than 3,500 years and is closely linked with several eastern religions including Buddhism. Yoga is a holistic discipline that evolved in Ancient India. In Yoga, the spiritual side is emphasised and breathing techniques, physical movements and meditation are interwoven in the various postures and movements to help unite mind, body and soul. In the west, yoga focuses on movement, but it is a spiritual philosophy so the physical side is only one of the eight aspects or ‘paths’ of yoga, with others including breathing, sensory transcendence and ethical standards.

The essence of Yoga

There are many different styles of Yoga; but they all involve sequences of gentle movements and holding your body in certain poses. Yoga improves the flexibility and mobility of joints in your body – especially the spine, hips and wrists. Yoga combines mindfulness with different breathing techniques and consequently, keeps both your mind and body fit. There are many different types of yoga including the traditional and gentle styles of Hatha and Ashtanga and Vinyara which is very fast-paced workout and there is even laughter yoga! It is good to experiment to find which style suits you best.

Practising yoga is good low impact exercise and brings many health benefits as it can ease anxiety and depression and have a positive effect on lowering high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and easing respiratory conditions.

The background to Pilates

Pilates was first developed by the German anatomist, Joseph Pilates, in the early 1920s when he called it ‘contrology’. “Pilates designed a very clever system that uses very carefully designed exercises to improve strength, flexibility and posture of targeted areas with particular focus on the core. His clever, low impact exercises were first used to rehabilitate injured soldiers from the First World War. Pilates is a disciplined practice and workouts need to be completed on a regular basis to provide maximum benefit.

The essence of Pilates

Pilates is a full body exercise program that focuses on core strength and is a workout that uses a variety of controlled movements to work the different smaller muscles in the back and other parts of the body and this builds, strengthens and tones them. Pilates also increases flexibility and improves core stability. It is very beneficial for those with back pains or joint injuries and pain.

There are two main different types of Pilates and whilst ‘mat Pilates’ is the most common, there are other more ‘fitness focused types’ that incorporate the use of resistance-based reformer machines. Pilates consists of a discipline routine with a variety of small movements that focus on different parts of the body. These movements are methodical and repetitive to have a maximum effect. Again, it is well worth trying out several different types of Pilates to find out which one works for you.

Which discipline helps you lose weight?

Regularly practising both Yoga and Pilates will help you keep trim. One hour of Yoga at a basic level will burn nearly 200 calories and at a more advanced level, this increases to 250-350 calories per hour. Figures for a Pilates workout are similar. Vinyara Yoga is a fast-paced style of Yoga that burns the most calories.

The great thing about both is that you can join at a beginner level and gradual learn the different movements and postures so neither are intimidating. If you practise either Yoga or Pilates every day for one month you will definitely notice the difference in your body weight and flexibility. Regular workouts will ensure that you stay trim.

Do they both bring mental benefits?

Research has shown that practising either yoga or Pilates regularly can reduce anxiety and stress in up to 70% of people. Regular workouts in both encourage the alignment of body, spirit and mind and also highlight the importance of self-care. The physical movements used in yoga have a calming and balancing effect and they include meditation which offers the perfect opportunity for everyone to step aside from their busy lives and focus inwards.

Pilates is a slow and methodical discipline that focuses on breathing techniques and good concentration to unify the body and mind and this has a similar restorative effect. Unlike in yoga classes, in Pilates there is no focus on meditation, but many students find that during a Pilates workout that they are in a semi-meditative state and benefit from the chance of some quality ‘me-time’.

Yoga and Pilates both nurture the mind and are excellent for maintaining good mental health. They also promote an overall sense of tranquillity and well-being. Once you have mastered the basics in either, you can enjoy a workout at home, in a forest or on a beach whenever you have some spare time.

Both are recommended by doctors and sports therapists to help those recovering from injuries and illnesses. They can be used as targeted rehabilitation for specific injuries and both can help restore the balance between mind, body and spirit and instil a beautiful sense of calm and serenity.

The million dollar question is whether yoga or Pilates is best and the answer is they are both equally beneficial. Yoga uses the body to connect with the mind and spirit, whist Pilates uses the mind to connect with the body and inner self. Why not try both and see which suits you best?

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